At The Starting Gate

By Chelle Cordero

October 8, 2010 5 min read

More older Americans are looking to rejoin the work force and/or actively contribute to the communities where they live. Some might even go so far as to claim that keeping busy keeps you young. Then there are the baby boomers who had contemplated retirement but now find that in today's financial world, they need continued income.

Older workers, both those who are returning to the work force after raising a family or attempting retirement and those who never have left the work force, have added difficulties with which to contend. It would seem that the adage "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is in the forefront of a job interviewer's mind when it comes to the older worker. Practice your "pitch"; you are selling yourself and your skills. The pitch should answer these questions: Who are you? What strengths can you bring to this company? How have you made an impact, and how is that impact important to this job? What sets you apart from the competition?

Past achievements, though impressive to many, can mean little in a current job interview. "You may be tempted to think that all you need to do to get a job is to highlight your years of experience. Not so," says Michael Olender of AARP. "Make sure you translate those years of experience into skills and accomplishments that are required for the job you are seeking. The employer may view extensive experience as a drawback, not an asset, for success in the position. Craft your r?sum? to show how you've used your skills and the results you've produced. Many experts suggest limiting your work history to 10 or 15 years. That may mean deleting pages of experience. But you'll end up with a clearer, more targeted r?sum?."

As skilled as you may have been in your earlier years of employment, times have changed, and even something as simple as using an office phone has changed. There is no reason to keep doing business the way you've always done it. Learn the skills necessary to keep you afloat with today's technology. Check out local colleges and adult programming (high schools, community groups, etc.) for courses to make you marketable in today's world. Ask at your local unemployment office for the locations of training sites; not all unemployment offices require people to be collecting unemployment to make use of their services.

Networking is still one of the best ways to find a job. Join a support group or job networking group. Be proactive. Just sending out r?sum?s is not enough in a competitive job market. Businesses actively seeking older workers can be found at RetirementJobs.com, YourEncore, RetiredBrains, Workforce50.com and other websites for workers who are 50 or older, including http://www.aarp.org/work/employee-benefits/info-04-2010/national_employer_team.html.

The AARP Foundation has developed a comprehensive assessment system specific to your needs. This system helps you assess your work interests and personal characteristics, as well as your workplace and transferable skills. The system also will help you see what jobs are currently available in your community and link you to the application process.

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, employers cannot be discriminatory based on age, as long as an applicant can do the job, but there are some labor-intensive positions that may be difficult to land. For example, most fire departments that don't require vigorous physical tests before acceptance have maximum entry ages of between 29 and 39. It is not considered discriminatory to mandate a maximum age; instead, it is to assure the employer that an individual can reasonably and safely perform the responsibilities required.

When the income is not vital, many seniors are turning to volunteer work; this is also a good way to develop new job skills. The Corporation for National and Community Service's Senior Corps taps the skills, talents and experience of more than 500,000 Americans 55 or older to meet a wide range of community needs through three programs: RSVP, Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions.

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